6.1 The Achievements of the Study
The study has established:
- That web design standards are critical for all businesses in the UK including SMEs, especially if they wish to remain competitive nationally and internationally. Also, that the audience is significant enough to warrant a necessity for access provisions.
- That both businesses and designers are split on who should be responsible for substandard sites. A third of the surveyed groups believe that joint accountability more suitable than the responsibility lying in the commissioner alone.
- That designers are not so concerned about strengthening of UK access laws and standards, but are more interested in raising the profile.
- That UK small businesses are mostly unaware of website accessibility and a significant number are unaware of any accessibility legislation at all.
- That UK small businesses are likely to adopt or show interest in accessible practices providing the profile of the law is raised and more is done to make them aware of their obligations under the DDA. The design community is keen to see this occur, however they are also anxious that the law is not used to frighten businesses into compliance, preferring to witness the change based on tangible benefits.
6.2 The UK and The Future
Following the discussions, the evidence seems to indicate that the current level of knowledge on the topic of web accessibility in UK SMEs is poor. This should be a concern for businesses and designers alike. In growing social awareness, failing to provide these services will ultimately damage reputations and may tar certain groups as discriminators. As yet, public opinion does not seem as conscious that discriminating websites are just as bad as discriminating physical facilities. Nevertheless, this may only be a short distance away if a legal intervention is made.
Until now, the accessibility advocates have kept a level head. Although they are keen to see a legal precedent set, it appears they would rather see the UK naturally accept these socially responsible behaviours. From the evidence presented it looks as if that this can be done most effectively with the support of government initiatives (such as the DRC) and a raised profile by a vocal industry. A chartered representation of the web developer community would also help. Although the Guild of Accessible Web Designers (GAWDs) is growing, it still is not a well known or Crown endorsed organisation, much like the initiatives its members try to promote.
The best possible outcome would be that SMEs chose to adopt standards based designs without a single show trial, influenced only by the arguments of an erudite web industry and equipped with knowledge of long and short term benefits to their businesses. The statistics show this is not likely to happen, even if law is tightened (or made more obvious). This said, progress is being made, and that can only be of benefit to all concerned parties.
6.3 Future Study
This study does not assess the level of standards compliance in UK SMEs websites and to date this information has still not been recorded. A future study might incorporate this data so that a relationship can be plotted between what the SMEs know/believe the standard of their website is and what the standard actually is. Two years on from the DRC’s 2004 study, it would also provide updated information on the number of sites that do comply with standards in theUK.